NASA on Wednesday shared beautiful footage of a solar eclipse on Mars taken by one of its rovers.
Car-sized robot Perseverance snapped video of Phobos, one of the Red Planet’s two moons, from Jezero Crater.
It shows the potato-shaped rock crossing the face of the sun in an eerie way, similar to eclipses here on Earth.
The rover’s Mastcam-Z camera captured the image on April 2 to study how the Moon’s orbit is changing over time.
According to Nasa, it is the most zoomed-in, highest-frame-rate observation of a Phobos eclipse ever recorded from the surface of Mars.
“I knew it was going to be good, but I didn’t expect it to be this amazing,” said Rachel Howson of Malin Space Science Systems in San Diego, a member of the Mastcam-Z team.
The eclipse lasted just over 40 seconds – much shorter than a typical eclipse involving the Moon.
That’s because Phobos is about 157 times smaller than our rocky satellite. Mars’ other moon, Deimos, is even smaller.
Tracking solar eclipses from Mars can shed light on the shape and composition of the planet’s outer layers.
“These observations help scientists better understand the moon’s orbit and how its gravity pulls on the Martian surface,” Nasa said.
The agency added that these forces “ultimately shape the red planet’s crust and mantle.”
It’s not the first time a solar eclipse has been imaged from the surface of Earth’s dusty neighbor.
In 2004, NASA’s Spirit and Opportunity rovers took the first time-lapse photos of Phobos during a solar eclipse.
Curiosity, a rover that has been exploring Mars since 2012, has recorded a series of Martian eclipses.
But Perseverance, which landed on the red planet last year, has provided the closest images yet of a Phobos eclipse.
Howson said receiving images from Mastcam-Z continues to be a great source of excitement.
“It feels like a birthday or a holiday when they arrive,” she said.
“You know what’s coming, but there’s still an element of surprise when you see the end product.”
Mark Lemmon, of the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colorado, said the quality of the images means the images show the eclipse “exactly as the rover saw it from Mars.”
The $2.4 billion Perseverance rover is hunting for signs of ancient life and will collect samples of Martian rock for a possible return to Earth.
It is one of four robots operating on Mars. Three rovers (Nasa’s Curiosity and Perseverance and Zhurong in China) and a lander (Nasa’s Insight) are currently studying the surface of the planet.
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https://www.thesun.ie/tech/8685714/nasas-video-solar-eclipse-mars-alien-moon/ Stunning Nasa video of solar eclipse on MARS shows crossing of ‘alien moon’ in just 40 seconds